Legislative Update: Drones, ethanol, transportation and more

Anna Boroff

Anna Boroff, MCGA Senior Public Policy Director.

Written by Anna Boroff, Senior Policy Director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA)

It sounds like Minnesota farmers are making great progress this planting season. As of last week, 45 percent of the state’s corn crop was in the ground, two weeks ahead of the five-year average.

As you continue making progress, we want to make sure you’re staying up to date on the latest agriculture legislative and policy happenings in Washington D.C. and St. Paul. This week’s update contains mostly federal items, so let’s get to it:

Federal

Reid Vapor Pressure
MCGA continues to work hard to allow the sale of higher blends of ethanol such as E15 during the summer months. Currently, Reid Vapor Pressure regulations unfairly force retailers to label blends like E15 “for flex-fuel vehicles only” during the summer months. Of course, this has a significant negative impact on sales. (Note: Reid Vapor Pressure rules are really confusing and hard to explain. Just know that it’s a silly and unnecessary regulation and we’re working hard to get it changed.)

Recently, MGCA’s marketing and biofuels director Mitch Coulter spent time in Washington D.C. visiting with legislators and policymakers to address the Reid Vapor Pressure issue. There are glimmers of hope for the future. A new piece of legislation would allow for the sale of higher blends of ethanol during the summer months. Here’s an audio clip of the new legislation.

Water Resources Development Act
The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is basically the legislation in Congress that supports water infrastructure and policy on our waterways, harbors, channels,  locks, dams, etc.  The Senate recently released its version of the bill, which does not include lockage fees/tolls to finance Public Private Partnerships included in the bill. This is good news (MCGA had signed a letter urging that a lockage fee/tolling proposal for the Illinois Waterway not be included in WRDA). A similar letter went to the House side, but that bill has not yet been released.

Drones
As drones continue to become more popular, the Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, which included provisions on drones. These included safety provisions so drones used in agriculture and airplanes don’t collide. The bill requires small towers to be safely marked so that agriculture applicators and drones can operate at low altitudes and be clearly identified.

State

Not much to report from the state legislative side this time around. The agriculture committees in the House & Senate have finished their work this session — most legislative action is now on the House and Senate floors and in conference committees. … We continue to work on securing property tax relief for farmers. … Gov. Dayton signed a new bill clarifying several items from last year’s buffer bill. We will have a blog post addressing both the old and new buffer bill later this week. … Meantime, if you need your buffer fix here is an interesting public television segment on buffers featuring Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR) Executive Director John Jaschke and Rep. Paul Torkelson, shot before the session. … Finally, we are preparing official comments on BWSR’s Buffer and Soil Loss program implementation.

Did you like this article?

Share this post with your friends!